Recognizing symptoms of congestive heart failure

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Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart can’t pump blood as well as it should. This condition can be life-threatening, but understanding its symptoms can lead to early detection and management, improving the quality of life and survival rates for those affected.

This article will explore the common symptoms of congestive heart failure, explaining why they happen and what they mean for those experiencing them.

CHF develops because the heart becomes weaker or stiffer than normal. As a result, it struggles to keep up with the body’s needs, causing blood and fluid to back up into the lungs and other parts of the body.

This condition doesn’t mean the heart has stopped working, but it needs support to function more effectively.

One of the first signs of CHF is often shortness of breath or dyspnea. This symptom can occur during activity or even while at rest, especially when lying flat. Many patients find they need extra pillows to sleep or prefer to sleep in a recliner.

This happens because fluid backs up into the lungs, making it harder to breathe. Research published in the European Heart Journal found that this symptom is a strong predictor of CHF and can be used alongside diagnostic tests to confirm heart failure.

Another common symptom is fatigue or feeling tired all the time. People with CHF may feel exhausted because their body’s cells are not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. This lack of energy can make even routine activities, like walking or carrying groceries, feel daunting.

A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology highlights that fatigue in CHF patients can be directly linked to the heart’s reduced ability to pump blood.

Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen is another symptom of CHF. This swelling, known as edema, occurs because the heart’s reduced capacity causes fluid to build up in the tissues. The gravity effect makes these areas particularly prone to swelling.

Research in Circulation notes that monitoring for and managing edema can help manage CHF symptoms and prevent complications.

Patients might also experience persistent coughing or wheezing, which can produce white or pink blood-tinged mucus. This symptom results from fluid buildup in the lungs.

According to the American Heart Association, this type of coughing, especially if it worsens when lying down, is a telltale sign of heart failure.

Rapid or irregular heartbeats can also occur as the heart compensates for its poor pumping ability by beating faster. This can feel like your heart is racing or throbbing.

The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation discusses how managing these symptoms can sometimes require treatments aimed at controlling the heart rate.

Weight gain from fluid retention is another indicator of CHF. Patients may notice that they are gaining weight rapidly without a change in diet.

Keeping a daily record of weight can help detect this early sign of worsening heart failure, as noted in research from the Journal of Cardiac Failure.

Lastly, a lack of appetite or nausea is reported by some people with CHF. This occurs because the digestive system receives less blood, causing issues with digestion.

A review in the Journal of the American Medical Association connects these gastrointestinal symptoms directly to advanced stages of CHF.

Recognizing these symptoms early and seeking treatment can significantly improve the outcomes for those with congestive heart failure. Treatments can involve lifestyle changes, medications, and sometimes surgical interventions to help the heart function more effectively.

Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider can monitor heart health and prevent the progression of CHF, enhancing both longevity and quality of life.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and scientists find how COVID-19 damages the heart.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about Aspirin linked to higher risk of heart failure, and results showing Blackcurrants could improve artery functions, blood pressure in older people.

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